I’m lost. Friday’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has left me reeling. As a parent, I think a natural response is to imagine what if. What if you got that phone call that there was a shooting rampage at your child’s school? What if you got to that school and your child was safe? What if she wasn’t? What would you do? How would life go on? Would your heart ever heal?
It hit especially close to home for me as Samantha is a first grader. The same age as the victims. One was born 5 days before her. I imagine the parents. Their loss. It’s such a wonderful, happy age. They’re learning to read and write. They’re full of questions and promise and hope. They’re still friends with everyone. You can see the people they’re becoming. I love 6 and I imagine the parents in Connecticut did too.
It makes me sick to think about. So much life lost. Families missing a member. Such devastation and heart break. My heart aches for those families and their precious babies.
And I feel lost. What do I do? What do I tell my kids? Do I say nothing? I haven’t turned on the news at home. They don’t know what happened. They’re off school for 3 weeks. Likely the media circus will have moved on and no one at school will be talking about it when they return.
There are talks I have had with my children. The “private parts” talk — no one looks or touches you there and if they do, you tell. The “stranger” talk — stay away and don’t talk to them. The “what to do if you get lost” talk — find someone who works at the store and ask them to help. And the “what to do if someone tries to take you” talk — fight, scream, scratch, and kick boys in their private parts, hard, then run away.
There are talks I plan to have with my girls as they get older. The “sex” talk (dear God, please help me through that one), and I had planned a “shooting rampage” talk when they were going to middle school. My plan was mostly to tell them to be nice to everyone so they don’t wind up a target.
But now. Now, I feel like I need to tell my sweet 6 year old, who is sleeping on my shoulder as I type, what to do if there is a shooting rampage at her elementary school. Because it could happen. It did happen to some parents.
What do I say?
Of course, follow your teacher’s instructions. Stay in the locked classroom and hide. But what about a contingency plan? What if she’s in the bathroom when it happens, or walking down the hall for some reason?
Do I tell her to run and get out of the school if at all possible?
Do I tell her to lock herself in a bathroom stall and balance on the toilet so a shooter won’t see her feet?
Do I tell her, if she’s hiding with others, to get in the back behind them so if someone shoots at them, maybe her friends will act as shields and she’ll be safe?
Do I tell her not to open the door for anyone, even if they say they’re the police, in case someone is trying to trick them?
Do I tell her to tell the police she won’t open the door to anyone but Mommy or Daddy?
And I’m lost. I shouldn’t have to be thinking about this. No one should have to think about this. When the shooting occurred in the mall in Oregon, it was noted how the crowd responded in almost a prepared manner. There wasn’t chaos. People found safe places to hide. Like this kind of thing is becoming so common people are prepared. As if they’re Christmas shopping and shooting starts so they hide and think how inconvenient it all is because they were about to get a great deal on something, then it’s over and back to life.
I live in Los Angeles. There’s crime here. In our neighborhood there has been an increase in robberies over the last couple of years. I get messages from the neighborhood watch weekly about robberies nearby. Mostly, they involve things being stolen out of cars parked in the street with valuables visible. Many of the cars aren’t even locked.
Recently, there was a robbery of 2 semi-automatic rifles and “hundreds” of rounds of ammo from a home in the area. They were stolen from an open garage. The owner had gone inside for a half hour or so and when he returned the guns had been stolen. Why didn’t he hear anything? Well, because they weren’t locked up. They were just sitting in his open garage for the taking. One person responded to the e-mail with my thoughts, why does one of our neighbors have those weapons at all, let alone not secured? Another responded in all seriousness, that we need that kind of weapons cache for when the big earthquake hits or some other disaster to protect our families.
And I’m lost. How did our society get here? How did we get to a place where we accept shooting rampages happen? How did we get to a place where people believe they need semi-automatic or automatic weapons, the same weapons used by the military in war, to protect their families? How did we get to a place where the mentally ill have access to legally obtained weapons?
And I’m lost. What can I do? How do I protect my kids? I don’t believe in guns and I don’t think arming my 6 year old is the answer.
I don’t know what the answer is, but here’s what I’m doing. I’m making sure my voice is heard. I’m speaking out for stricter gun control laws, I’m signing petitions, whatever I can to make sure Washington gets the message. I want semi-automatic and automatic weapons taken out of the public’s hands. No exceptions. I want longer waiting periods for buying guns and no loopholes at gun shows. I want people to have to pass a psychiatric evaluation to own a gun and need a reason beyond “protection”.
I know guns aren’t the only problem here. I know we have a serious problem with mental health care in this country, but legislating mental health care is too difficult. Even if it were universally available, people can refuse it or may not recognize they need it. We need to keep guns like these out of their hands, and that means not having them in our homes.
This isn’t about second amendment rights or politics. This is about the safety of the children in this country. This is about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Enough is enough. I hope one day soon the gun laws in this country will be effective at preventing these mass shootings so my daughters never have to feel lost like I do right now.